After a fierce battle to win last year’s Hardrock 100, Anna Frost led this year’s race from start to finish. In the following interview, Anna talks about how her changing attitude affected her Hardrock experience, how she suffered with the heat, and what she thinks the future at Hardrock holds for her.
[For more on how this year’s Hardrock 100 went down, including additional resources, check out our 2016 Hardrock 100 results article.]
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Bonus Finish-Line Interview
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Anna Frost, 2016 Hardrock 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Silverton, Colorado. It’s the day after the 2016 Hardrock 100. I’m with women’s champion, Anna Frost. Cheers! We did this with wine last year and cider today. It’s the day after Hardrock, and you’re the two-time winner. We didn’t drink, that was a major foul. Cheers!
Anna Frost: And one more for good luck, I think. Yeah.
iRunFar: And one more because we ran 100 miles.
Frost: And one more because we’re doing an interview. And one more for good luck.
iRunFar: You’re the two-time winner of this race. How do you feel today?
Frost: Great. Excellent. I feel quite sore.
iRunFar: What’s sore?
Frost: Everything. It all hurts. It’s 100 miles.
iRunFar: It’s 100 miles in the San Juan Mountains.
Frost: Yeah, it’s quite unbelievable. Even today when I was just walking down the steps in the hotel, and I was going down backwards…
iRunFar: You went down backwards?
Frost: Yeah, absolutely.
Frost: I was just thinking, 100 miles is a really long way, but especially when you’re up in these mountains and you’re going up and down just non-stop all day. You think back on that and even during the time, it was 29 hours for me. It’s such a long time to be out there. It’s kind of unbelievable.
iRunFar: I had that feeling going over Handies in the middle of the night with the stars and the moon and you’re at 14,000 feet, and there’s this pretty chilly wind. It’s a very surreal experience to think, The race is barely half over, and I’m at 14,000 feet in the middle of nowhere.
Frost: Yeah, it’s really an amazing feeling that you can do that and push yourself mentally and physically to go through a whole day, a whole night running, moving, walking, and trying to eat for that sort of time. Yeah, it’s amazing what we’re really capable of.
iRunFar: You talked about in your pre-race interview with us about coming into this race with a different mentality. What was that like? You’re approaching Hardrock with a different competitive mentality, but you’re also approaching Hardrock with a year’s experience. You’ve done this before. What was it like being on the starting line this year compared to last year?
Frost: I think last year I was just so frightened about everything about it, just everything was frightening.
Frost: Yeah. This year I was scared and a little bit frightened, but maybe not as much, like I said, because I’ve done it once already but have had a little bit more experience already. But I think, the expectations of myself were lower. I was coming in definitely with the feeling of, Okay, it’s what it is; we’re just going to get it done at whatever cost it is. For me, that ended up being a nice way to go into the race, but I still remain very competitive. [Off camera: Hi, Bryon.]
iRunFar: We have a spy.
Frost: When you’re born with such competitive blood inside you, it’s hard to get rid of that. Yeah, I still went to the start line still having that competitive buzz. I kind of got in a steady, consistent pace, and just went with it for the whole day. So did Emma Roca, as well. That was an amazing thing to have going on behind me, just a consistent, solid racer right there behind me at 30 minutes, 33 minutes, 40 minutes, 36 minutes just all day long. It just kept me honest and on a really solid pace which was nice to have.
iRunFar: You took it out quick. You basically led start to finish. What was it like… you had the experience of basically doing that last year, and when you bobbled, there was Darcy [Piceu]. She was there and she took the race before you regained it. Were you thinking about these girls? How did that affect your actual performance out there?
Frost: I think the whole time when you’re in a race like 100 miles, you just have to know that you can lose 30 minutes really quickly. If you have a moment where you’re sitting down for 10 minutes changing your shoes and socks for 10 minutes, having a toilet stop for 10 minutes, there’s 30 minutes gone really quickly. So you just have to be moving the whole time. You can’t kind of falter. If you can stick with a pace and go with it and don’t lose much time doing anything, yeah, you can move pretty rapidly through a course like this. Yeah, you just have to know there are some really strong women behind you that can catch very quickly.
iRunFar: Unusually for this race, heat was a factor. We think we’re in the mountains and that the climbs and descents and perhaps the altitude in the San Juans will be the defining factors, but for much of the field, it was heat.
Frost: Yeah, it was the most perfect day. There were, like, eight clouds in the sky for the whole day.
iRunFar: Eight? Did you count them?
Frost: I was looking up. Why am I doing this?
iRunFar: “Shade, please. You, here.”
Frost: Yeah, it was really, really hot. You could see some clouds brewing up over Virginius at one point in the day, so I took a thicker jacket thinking it might storm when I was up there, but yeah, nothing happened, not even a drop of rain. I think people say it’s one in every 10 years that it’s that hot. Yeah, it’s hard when it gets that hot as well because it’s so hard to eat when it’s that hot. I pretty much didn’t eat any solids for the whole race. I had baby foods, gels, and chomps for the whole day, some chia drink which was really refreshing in the aid stations. Yeah, when it’s hot like that, it turns into a sufferfest, which I really went through going up Bear Creek from Ouray. It was just boiling hot. There’s no water in there. There’s no shade in there. I think it’s one of the longest climbs on the whole course. You’re just going and going and going all the way up to Engineer Pass. I had my poles out, and I was just marching up there as I could. Every river crossing I just got all the way down and laid down in it and got really cold and brought my temperature back down again. So by the time I got to Engineer Pass for the road down, I was feeling a little bit fresher and ready to go. But yeah, it was hard. By the time I got to night time, I was quite thankful for the sundown.
iRunFar: I think there were a lot of people begging for night time.
Frost: It’s a strange thing to do because usually you’re like, Oh, no, the night-time demons.
iRunFar: The Hardrock course flips directions every year. Last year was counter-clockwise, and this year was clockwise. It’s the same terrain, but it makes it a totally different race.
Frost: Yeah, it’s amazing how it makes it a different race.
iRunFar: How was this direction for you?
Frost: I definitely prefer the other direction.
iRunFar: Because of the steepness…?
Frost: I think for me, I prefer to be running or grinding up those long, gradual roads that are in there, rather than running fast down them. The thing then is you can still look up when you’re grinding it out up the hill. You can look around you. But when you’re trying to fly down a hill, you’re just focused on the ground.
iRunFar: You have to put your eyes where you want to go?
Frost: Yeah, and as soon as I looked up to watch the sunset, I totally face-planted on the road, hands out… that’s why I got all these scratches on the flattest part of the course.
iRunFar: Is that true? On which descent?
Frost: On Engineer Pass coming down into Grouse.
iRunFar: Oh, me, too.
iRunFar: Well, it was stars for me but sunset for you. You can’t look away from Engineer Pass Road.
Frost: No, you definitely can’t. If you’re going up, you can; if you’re going down, absolutely not.
iRunFar: Don’t look around. When was it… everybody suffers at Hardrock. When was the suffering for you?
Frost: I think physically, the sufferfest was coming out of Ouray up Bear Creek in the heat. I knew what was going on. I was just really hot. So it was just a matter of doing what I could to control that. I was just marching. I didn’t even try to run up there. I got in the creek as much as I could. I just knew I had to get through it. I had to get up to Engineer Pass and get up into the breeze, and then I knew the sun would go down eventually.
iRunFar: Night time would come.
Frost: Yeah. Once I got down to Grouse, I felt much better. I had an amazing time up and over Handies. It’s my favorite part of the course day or night. It was as clear as it could be. The moon was so bright. We barely put our head torches on. I had Dakota [Jones] with me then, so that was really fun.
iRunFar: The entertainment factor was high.
Frost: It was really good. He was telling me some horrible jokes.
iRunFar: Dakota, you should have practiced.
Frost: He did. They were still bad. Then coming down into Burrows, it was just a really, really nice evening. But then I think mentally, that was my low point. Mentally, I knew how long it was to get from Sherman all the way over to Maggie’s. It’s kind of a… you’re in the dark. It’s the middle of the night. It’s freezing cold up there. You’re pushing your way through mud and willows.
iRunFar: And a waist-deep water crossing? What was that?
Frost: Yeah, it was freezing. I have no idea.
iRunFar: Did we do that last year?
Frost: No, we didn’t go swimming through a beaver creek.
iRunFar: We swam through a beaver pond this year.
iRunFar: Thanks, Charlie Thorn. Cheers, Charlie.
Frost: Yeah, cheers to the beaver pond.
iRunFar: You crossed that in the middle of the night and then had to muck your way all through Pole Creek drainages.
Frost: Yeah, and it was just… it’s just such a gradual up and such a gradual down. My legs were getting pretty sore. The direction we did this year is definitely for me more challenging on the muscles in your legs. If you don’t run at a good speed down the hill, you’re putting the brakes on which makes your legs worse. So I really started to feel my legs didn’t really want to be running anywhere by that point. It was a long way to mentally go with really sore legs that I couldn’t run with. Then the sun came up just as we were getting out of Pole Creek toward Maggie’s, so I had a really tired spot then for about an hour before sun-up, but obviously the sun was coming. It’s okay, the sun is coming.
iRunFar: “I shall survive.”
Frost: Then I switched over to Erik Skaggs pacing me. It was really great. Once we got to Maggie’s, it was kind of a uplifting, Okay, we’ve got three really beautiful mountains to go over, and then we’re done. That kind of got me out of that physical lull.
iRunFar: You’re now a two-time winner of Hardrock. This was a race that was sort of an Anna Frost bucket-list race. You said before you started doing Hardrock that the idea of running 100 miles wasn’t that appealing unless it was Hardrock. Okay, so you’ve got both directions and you’ve won it twice. You’ve put yourself in the position to stay in the San Juans for weeks at a time to train and soak up this place. You’re now going to live not that far away. Do you have… what’s left here for you?
Frost: I think once Hardrock is in your blood, it doesn’t go away. So, I think for me, this is going to be a lifelong commitment to the Hardrock family. It’s not just coming to a race. It’s coming to support your friends new and old. It’s to be in the mountains to get that thing that fills your spirit and soul up when you go out into the mountains with the flowers and night and when you have to dig deep. We’ve put ourselves here because we love it. Once you do that and it gets soaked into your soul, you can’t get it away. So, I think I’ll be here for the rest of my life in some form whether it’s racing or trail marking or volunteering at an aid station or down at the school hall where they’re amazing for 48 hours. Yeah, I think when I was running with Skaggs in those final 15 miles, I said to him, “Skaggs, I think I’m done.” It’s a pretty fair comment when you’re on 90 miles in. But there’s always that thing when you get to the finish line, and you realize, Wow, I’ve actually made this, and you’re running up to the rock, and it’s right there, and you kiss is and think, Wow, I actually just achieved that. Okay, I’ll come back and do it again. There’s that draw to it. I’m not going to say I will or I won’t just yet.
iRunFar: But you do have that winner’s entry just, you know, sitting right there.
Frost: Exactly, which is very hard to brush away.
iRunFar: It’s a very coveted object in ultrarunners’ eyes these days.
Frost: For me, Hardrock has kept me going for the last three years maybe, three or four years. It’s the thing that has kept me going, kept me dreaming, kept me running. It’s kept me wanting to be in the mountains and racing and running. It’s hard to walk away from something that’s been the sole purpose of why I’ve kept going.
iRunFar: That’s a great way to end this. Cheers to you.
Frost: Cheers to you, and congratulations. Thank you to iRunFar for being such amazing and an enormous media package for this weekend. I know that people all around the world were watching you.
iRunFar: That’s sweet of you. Thanks to our volunteers who managed that while Bryon and I were out running ourselves.
Frost: That was so great. They were everywhere.
iRunFar: Cheers to everybody who put Hardrock together—Dale Garland, the whole Run Committee, and the more than 300 volunteers who were out there.
Frost: Yeah, it’s incredible.
iRunFar: Huge cheers.
Frost: Cheers. Thank you.
iRunFar: Thank you. Hardrockers.
Anna Frost, 2016 Hardrock 100 Champion, Finish-Line Interview Transcript
Interviewer: Anna, how would you compare this year’s experience to your first year last year?
Anna Frost: I think I was more scared going into it last year, but this year I found it so much harder. I don’t know if maybe it was because I knew what to expect that it was much harder. Last year, it was just a surprise. Yeah, it was very hard. I think maybe the direction was maybe a bit harder for me because of the long downhills. That’s not one of my specialties. I found that really hard mentally and physically.
Interviewer: How much of a factor was the heat out there yesterday and earlier today?
Frost: I didn’t notice it at all during yesterday or today except coming out of Ouray. Then, it was absolutely boiling. I really had to take my speed down and just go to walking instead of running up into Bear Creek because it was just so hot. I laid in every creek that was along the way. Yeah, it was really hot in there.
Interveiwer: What was it like running up in a group? It seemed like you were around quite a few of runners most of the way. What was it like mixing with the rest of the guys in the top 10?
Frost: Actually, we didn’t really run together too much. We were mostly yo-yoing the whole day just saying, “Hi,” and giving a high-five and going again. Yeah, it’s always awesome to see your friends out there and to be going through something so hard with them as well and knowing you’re not the only one who’s struggling.
Interviewer: Two for two, you’ve become a true Hardrocker. How special is it?
Frost: It’s amazing. It’s really an amazing feeling. It’s not just one day. It’s been weeks that you put into it. Just getting to the start line is hard enough. So getting to the finish line is a huge feat. It’s not just an individual thing for me. It’s all my family and friends and all of you guys that have been here supporting that make it part of what it is and that makes it special to me.
Interviewer: Will you be back next year?
Frost: I’ll be back for sure, but I’m not sure if I’ll race.
Interviewer: Were there highlights—a part of the course or particular things that were memorable this year?
Frost: My favorite part of the course is Handies. We were up there in the middle of the night, and the moon was shining beautifully on it, and the coyotes were howling. It was pretty fantastic.
Interviewer: Conversely, any lowlights? Time where you were just like, “This sucks?”
Frost: I was super boiling hot when I was in Bear Creek. That was pretty hard to get through, but lying in the creek made it nice. I think I felt the bogs a bit up in Pole Creek. It was frustrating and cold last night. But no, it’s amazing how just a direction change can make a course feel so different. It’s a cool thing.
Interviewer: Anna, what’s the message you wrote on your shoes this year?
Frost: Well, these ones say, “Run Happy, Be Kind.” My other ones had all sorts of graffiti all over them.
Interviewer: Would the three words you used to describe Hardrock before change now?
Frost: I don’t remember.
Interviewer: What would you say now then?
Frost: I think I said, “Brutal and beautiful… and scary,” was the other one. It stays the same.
Frost addressing little girl: Did you have a fun day? Did you run Hardrock, too?
Girl: [Nods]. I ran this way.
Frost: You ran this way around the block.